Monday, December 31, 2007

A year's worth of trash

From Treehugger:
Ari Derfel of Berkeley, California, saved his trash - including what he generated when he went out - for an entire year and ended up with a kitchen and then a living room full (96 cubic feet to be exact) of mostly food packaging, bits of paper, and the odd condom. He composted all his food scraps and over time, became obsessively careful about what he bought and consumed. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, Derfel's experiment was a vivid demonstration of the fact that while we throw away lots and lots of trash, much of it never really goes completely away.

One of the most interesting and thought-provoking results of Derfel's experiment was his feelings around trash maintenance - he spent a lot of time sorting, and rinsing and drying his trash, the pre-process many of us are well-acquainted with in preparation for recycling, which Derfel denounces as 'wasteful' in his blog, saveyourtrash.

"Of course recycling is a powerful first step in becoming aware of what one consumes," Derfel says. "That said, [recycling] takes enormous amounts of energy and clean water..."

While Derfel says recycling is a needed alternative to using up raw materials, it can also show a lack of effective design around our own consumption. Why for example, must we all take home untold take-out packages instead of having personal, reusable containers? Derfel plans to give his accumulated trash pile to an interested artist - there's gotta be a treehugger out there who qualifies. Via ::SF Chronicle

Original article.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. There's a reason why they're in that order. I remember when I heard about Ed Begley, Jr. fitting all his trash into his mailbox...I don't recall if it was one week's, one month's, or what. I think cutting back on packaging in any significant fashion would be harder than any other environmental undertaking. It really permeates to the core of our way of life. But just because it's a daunting task doesn't mean we should give up without even trying. Baby steps...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Whole Foods

I've told so many people about this story from The Consumerist, I decided to post it here in my blog:

What did Whole Foods Associate Manager Ted Donoghue do when his West Hartford store lost its computer system during a major snowstorm? Nothing! After realizing that the registers were down for the count, Donoghue issued simple instructions to his cashiers: bag the customer's groceries and wish them happy holidays.

No storewide announcement was made and the store ended up giving away groceries worth $4,000.

[Manager Kimberly Hall] said Donoghue did not consult headquarters before making his decision and said she has heard no negative feedback from the top brass.

"They just totally trust us to do what is right for our customers," she said.

It didn't appear to be a big deal to Hall. In fact, neither the store nor the chain sought publicity for what happened.

Just as turtle hatchlings know to shimmy towards the moonlit sea, employees freed from constraining corporate codes know exactly how to provide unimpeachable customer service. Great work, Ted!

Original article here.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

What charity would you give $30 million to?

The war against terror is costing us $15 Billion dollars per month. You could give 5000 charities three million dollars each--for just one month's cost of the war. For ten months' cost, you could give those same 5000 charities 30 million dollars each. What charity would YOU give it to?

1. Humane Society of the US
2. American Red Cross
3. World Wildlife Fund
4. Sierra Club
5. Disabled American Veterans
6. St. Jude Children's Hospital
7. Domestic violence shelters
8. PBS
9. Doctors Without Borders
10. America's Second Harvest
11. YMCA
12. Salvation Army
13. Boys and Girls Club
14. American Cancer Society
15. Habitat for Humanity
16. Big Brothers Big Sisters
17. Special Olympics
18. Muscular Dystrophy Association
19. Toys for Tots
20. Unicef
21. Make A Wish Foundation
22. Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
24. Environmental Defense Fund
25. Amnesty International
26. United Way
27. National Public Radio
28. Goodwill
29. Salvation Army
30. Children's Defense Fund

Or, for one month's cost of the war, you could stand out in front of Target and give out $100 gift cards at the rate of 1 per minute for 104,166 days. That's 285 years.

Pray for peace, people everywhere. Do you see what I see?

Friday, December 28, 2007

So how long till the cordless home theater?

How sleek...
...the way these WildChargers work would require a couple of physics classes to completely understand. The layman's explanation is that it uses inductive charging—the type you see in Sonicare toothbrushes—that will charge your gadget just by placing it on a sheet.

Amazing bear rescue

Go here to check out pics of an amazing bear rescue. How on earth did he get there in the first place??

A little late, but your decorations are still up, so....

I LOVE acapella groups. Especially when they're funny, and this one's hilarious. (Saw this on Heather's blog and totally had to copy her.)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cool Yule

A merry time was had by all!

Christms Eve I arrived at my parents' house around 3, and my brother arrived with Cassidy around 9 (he had to deliver all those last-minute packages to expectant UPS customers). We had hot cocoa and started watching The Simpsons Movie, but I don't think anyone was awake by the end. I, for one, was fast asleep. My dad woke me up at 1:30 and they had already put all the presents under the tree (you know, to help out Santa, who must've dropped them off on the porch or something).

We got up around 8 on Christmas Day, although Cassidy probably could have slept much longer. The first few presents she was still a little dazed. But she caught on right away that all the ones with Winnie the Pooh wrapping paper were for her, so she was thrilled to run around the tree picking them all out. "It's for me!" "This one's for me too!" She got lots of Winnie the Pooh and Nemo stuff, including a washcloth that came all compacted down into this tiny star. When you run it under water, it grows. She got a kick out of that, and wanted to do the same thing to other presents. "Get it wet!" It doesn't work that way, hon.

Matthew and I made out like bandits. We both got crock pots and hepa air purifiers. I also got a toaster oven and a food steamer (which I used last night--frozen salmon, frozen cauliflower, set for 20 minutes, and voila! Dinner.) I got Lost Season 3 on DVD, and am looking forward to some marathon viewing sessions. I also got Nip Tuck Season 1 (I've heard it's good, and was a steal on Black Friday), and How I Met Your Mother Season 1 (I just started watching this year, and it's super funny!). I got my usual US Mint proof set (they seem to get bigger every they have the "regular" coins, plus the state quarters, plus the presidential gold dollars) along with an uncirculated set. There's lots of other things I haven't mentioned--it's really an embarrassment of riches--but the piece de resistance came after we were supposedly all finished, and Dad had started making breakfast. Mom said, "Oh look, there's two more presents under the tree...I didn't see those before. I wonder who they're for?" I unwrapped a super spiffy RED, engraved iPod Nano! And Matthew was pleased as punch to get a Tom Tom GPS navigator. We must have been on Santa's "very, very good" list this year!

The afternoon was spent mostly preparing our feast. I volunteered to do the green bean casserole, Good Eats style. In other words, no canned soup! I sliced up onions, tossed them in breadcrumbs and flour, and baked them to a crisp. I trimmed fresh green beans and boiled them. I made the sauce with fresh mushrooms, butter, garlic, and half and half. Super yummy. The recipe is here if you'd like to try it yourself.

Since the next day was a work day for both me and my brother, we left relatively early. Yesterday was super slow here at the office, and today is pretty similar. Some schools will be back in session starting the 2nd, though, so I'm enjoying the lull while it lasts! I was given the opportunity to go to Wisconsin again, but turned it down, because I'm snow-travel phobic. Same with Ohio. I did take on a session in Boone, NC, though, which could be just as treacherous. Hopefully there won't be a blizzard the day I'm there!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Could she BE any cuter?

Cassidy went on her first merry-go-round ride last weekend...I love this shot:

She's a pro at posing for the camera.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Am Legend

Who doesn't like Will Smith? I saw I Am Legend this afternoon and the hour and 40 minutes flew by! I wouldn't normally have gone to see this in the theater, but I went with Mike, the guy from my second eHarmony date. I didn't blog about the date here, because although it went really well, he didn't call or email in the following days. I finally emailed him to say, "whassup??" and he said that he didn't feel any chemistry but thought we had a lot in common and would like to hang out. K, whatever. I'm not going to read anything into it. I'll just take it for what it is. I really thought I'd never hear from him again, but I got an email from him this morning asking if I wanted to have lunch or see a movie, as he needed a break from moving into his new apartment. He'd mentioned wanting to see I Am Legend, and, I'll reiterate, who doesn't like Will Smith?

So I found myself at Brier Creek at 3:30, laptop and all (I was on call, as usual--although as we were waiting in line to buy a soda, my boss called and said he'd cover me for the two hours of the movie--sweet!) There's not much to report about our conversation (and why would I do that if we're just friends anyway, right?), but the movie was great. It sucked me in right away, and the dog Sam is just precious. Then it got kinda scary with the "dark seekers" and stuff, and it got to a point where I was like, "How on earth is this going to have a happy ending?" I can't say anything more without giving something away, and I'd hate to spoil it for anyone else who's going to see it.

The film defies being pigeonholed into one genre. Google categorizes it as "SciFi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Drama." It's like part Castaway, part Signs, part Outbreak, part Blast from the Past. It'll definitely make you jump out of your seat more than once, and make you wonder if the world could really get that messed up in just 3 years. Not exactly upbeat holiday fare, but an entertaining way to spend a chilly December afternoon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Decoration photos

What my tree looks like in the daytime.

Comet loves to sit under the tree. Just like Gabrielle's Pumpkin.


Had to have this as soon as I saw it.


One of the many snowmen my dear friend Nicole has given me over the years. His name is Joey Jingles.


Bell stocking holder


Countdown stocking holder

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Christmas Tree

Perfect little tree, seems to have been made for the spot. And it's recycled! Or rather, reused. Found it by the dumpster near the recycle bin when I was moving out of my apartment many months ago, apparently cast off by its previous owners due to...what...not fitting in the moving van? Lights still on it and everything. Works beautifully. All I need is a topper. Must go a on a quest for the perfect one. I found awesome stocking hangers this weekend...will post photo soon.

This is my first Christmas tree since 2000. Have I regaled you with this tale of woe before? Picture it: I'm on winter break, the tree has seen better days (it was a real one), and I decide to take off the decorations and haul it down to where it will be picked up for woodchipping. It's not terribly heavy, what with all the moisture being gone, but it's bulky. It was a very wide-bottomed tree, but I'd chosen it for its perfect isosceles shape. (My word, how many times can I say the word "perfect" in one post??) Anyway, I'm carting it down the stairs, getting poked by all the dry little needles, and I'm almost to the bottom, in fact I think I'm at the bottom, so I go to take that last step...except it wasn't the last step, it was the second-to-last step, and I twisted my ankle something fierce. I managed to drag the tree over to the pick up spot, hopping on one foot, and then go back upstairs to nurse my wounds. When it started to swell and not feel any better, I called my dad, and he came over to check it out. We agreed I should go to the doctor. If I recall, we waited until the next day, and he took me to my primary care physician to get a referral to an orthopedic guy (stupid HMO's). Got an xray, an sure enough, fractured fifth metatarsal, which is the long bone on the outside of your foot. Got a cast and crutches, a scrip for Vicodin (which did nada for me), and strict instructions not to drive, since it was my right foot.

This posed a couple of problems. First of all, I lived on the second floor of an apartment building, with no elevator. Not exactly crutch-friendly. So, I moved back in with my parents for a couple of weeks, until I could get a walking cast. Secondly, my dad had to drive me to work and pick me up. It was kind of fun, but also kind of like being tossed back into high school. Thank goodness his schedule was flexible enough to do that, though!

So I was teaching seventh graders at the time, and when I came back from break with a cast and crutches, it really threw them. Kids don't do well when things are different than what they're used to. I had to rely on them to pass out papers and set up the overhead, etc. They were really good about it, but man did they start rumors about how I broke my foot. Skiing, hangliding, you name it. If only it was so glamorous.

Anyway, that was the last time I had a Christmas tree. The following year I was in the same apartment, and was a little leery. After that, I moved to my condo and didn't really have a place to put one up. Since I spend Christmas day at my parents' anyway, it didn't seem all that important to me. But this year, with the tree practically falling in my lap and having the perfect spot to set it up, I just couldn't resist. It makes me smile every time I come down the stairs!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

What goes up...

Update: YouTube video was taken down. I replaced it with another copy.

What happens when you tie hundreds of helium balloons to a car? Fast forward to 1:45 to find out...

Helium Balloons Lift Car - Watch more free videos

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

My desk

Not too busy at work today, so I took a picture of my desk and thought I'd post it because I think what's on their desk says a lot about a person.

Let's go clockwise starting at the top left with the Dasani water bottle. I drink a liter a day, a luxury I could never afford as a teacher with bathroom breaks so limited. I don't carry a bottle with me on the weekend, though, so I sometimes get headaches from being dehydrated.

Behind the water bottle you can kind of see a file organizer with red folders. Those are old. The procedures I follow now to set up my trainings are paper-free. The folders still get made, to hold copies of the contracts and invoices. But I don't deal with them anymore. The folders in my organizer are for customers that I've been trying to get scheduled for months. And months. They are not on my good side.

In front of the folder organizer is my mini Zen garden, complete with tiny pebbles and a rake. I play with it during trainings, because I could do them with my eyes closed, and need some sort of distraction so I don't go out of my mind with boredom.

To the right is a tube of Bath & Body Workds anti-bacterial hand lotion, in Brown Sugar and Fig. It's one of my favorite scents. I must always have lotion on my hands, just as I must always have lip balm on my lips.

In the way background (you know what I mean) you can barely make out my oil warmer. I got it at the flea market and I have it on most days to freshen the air. When I put new oil in, everyone always asks, "What's that great smell?" "Oh, that's just Melissa's office." That makes me happy. :-)

Next is my mini water fountain. It works with the hand pump--you can see the tube looping around and the squeezy thing sitting next to the rubber band. It's fun! Another distraction during trainings.

The pink and purple cube is a puzzle I bought at a toy store in Vermont, and put together at the airport waiting for my delayed flight (which ultimately was cancelled). It said "for ages 5 and up," but still took me about an hour to solve. (Should I have admitted that publicly?)

Then there's the neon Slinky, with a stress ball inside. Do you detect a pattern here? I love toys and need things to keep my hands busy while I deal with our mostly nice, but mostly slow customers.

Sitting inside the water fountain tubing is a "new" nickel, the kind with Jefferon's profile, and a buffalo on the back. I am nuts when it comes to coins. I pay with cash so infrequently these days, and when I do, I never give the exact amount just so that I can see what change I get. I need Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah from 2007. Seems harder to come by new quarters here in NC.

Body Shop almond oil nail & cuticle balm is to my fingertips what lotion is to my hands, and lip balm is to my lips. I must have it everyday, or my cuticles are so dry and ragged looking. Burt's Bees makes a lemon butter kind, which is also lovely.

The rubber band, paper clip, and battery hold no story. In fact, I should put them away right now.

Pens! I love pens. The black one I got on clearance at Target. It writes smoothly, but not as well as the blue Foray pen I was using until it recently ran out of ink. That was the best pen EVER. I prefer the retractable kind because then you don't have caps to lose. The pink pen was also on clearance at Target. Sometimes I am asked to proofread stuff, and it's easier to see the corrections when they are in brilliant pink than boring black.

The cell phone is for on-call. I take on-call shifts about 98% of the time. The only time I don't is when I'm traveling. I don't mind it, because I have no life anyway. I go straight home from work, and I'm not usually busy on the weekend, so hey, might as well get some money. (If I do step out, like to the grocery store or something, I have a laptop with an aircard so I can still get online.) I don't mind helping people, as long as they're polite. But we're getting into the time of year where I get woken up at 5am to launch calls, and that is more than a teensy bit irritating. The work cell phone is always charged and on, and I often forget to charge my own phone.

Lastly, you can see the edge of my headset base. I don't like to do trainings on speakerphone, because I think the audio quality is compromised, especially since the customer is usually on speakerphone. So I use a headset. Leaves my hands free for important business, like playing with my Slinky or my Zen garden. And some occasional typing.

So what's on YOUR desk?

Monday, December 03, 2007


Spotted in Greenville, NC:

Just in case you can't read it:

Consider them decked

The halls, that is. At least outside. No inside halls are sporting deckage as of yet. Out in CA, it seemed that everyone had their lights up already, and it was only a couple of days after Thanksgiving! In my neighborhood, only about 10% of the houses have lights on. I got the eco- and penny-conscious LED lights and think they look just fine. I'm not done yet...still have to do the other side of the porch...but I need another extension cord. So it's kinda lopsided right now, but it's better to have lopsided festivity than no festivity, if you ask me.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First eHarmony Date

One-word summary: lame.

I bought a new red sweater just for the occasion and looked rather spiffy, if I do say so myself. He showed up in baggy jeans and and old sweatshirt. We'd decided ahead of time that we would grab a bite to eat and then see Bee Movie. I left it to him to settle on the details. He had me meet him in front of his apartment. Twenty minute drive for me, zero for him. Granted, he lives in North Hills, which is convenient to restaurants and a theater, so I'll overlook this inequity.

He listed the nearby places to eat, and asked me to choose. I narrowed it down to two and left it up to him. He chose Panera. We walked over there, ordered, and sat down. The conversation didn't exactly flow smoothly, but that is not abnormal for a first date. He kept bringing up topics we had already gone over thoroughly in our email exchanges, though, so I felt like I was repeating myself. He went over his previous eHarmony date experiences: married, 68, stalker, bitter. He said he's not going to renew when his membership is up in two weeks, because it's just "too much work." His words: "I get like, 10 matches a day, about 5 of them communicate with me, it's just exhausting. I've got about 25 in open communication now." Holy crap. I have two in open communication. Something is wrong here, because he is NOT the catch of the decade, so why all the interest? I think there must be way more women than men in the system. No wonder all the guys are so picky--they have scores of women to choose from!

He asked about my job, which we had not discussed. My profile says I'm a software trainer. "How did you get to THAT from teaching?" Um, it's not exactly that big of a stretch to go from teaching kids to training adults, but he made it sound as if I switched from teacher to streetsweeper or something. So I explained what I do, and he seemed thoroughly bored. It was at this point that I noticed he had yet to smile since we met, and he did not seem particularly engaged in our conversation or interested in what I was saying. He kept nodding his head ever so slightly, accompanied by the slow blink, as if to say, "Yeah, yeah, I get it, who cares, move on already." I really don't think this was me being ultra sensitive, either. I already knew all about his job (he's a high school social studies teacher), but we talked about it nonetheless. He'd stayed up all night Sunday grading papers, and then took Friday off as a "mental health day" to catch up on his sleep. I asked why the all-nighter was necessary, when he had a four-day weekend previous. He got defensive, and then asked if I knew what kind of school he taught at. I knew it was kind of like a magnet school, but he launched into this diatribe about how it's ranked in the top 5 nationally (B.S., by the way), there are thousands of applications every year for 800 spots, etc. He brought up why I left teaching, which, again, we'd already discussed, and when I explained my frustration with student behavior, he said (rather haughtily), "I never had those types of problems, even when I taught low-achievers." Okay then.

He only ate about half of his Caesar salad, because he said it tasted awful. I kept eating my sandwich, and had about two bites left when he said, "Shall we walk around?" Um, how about you let me finish first? So we went outside and walked around all the little shops there in North Hills. I tried my best to make conversation, keep things upbeat and moving. We passed by Wolf Camera, so I asked him about the camera he's planning to buy, but he seemed completely uninterested in hearing my opinion, even though he'd been impressed before by my knowledge in this area. We had pretty much reached the theater when he said he wanted to go back because he wasn't feeling well. He walked me to my car and apologized for cutting things short, but he felt like he was going to throw up. At that point, the date officially entered the Hall of Shame. Less than an hour after I arrived, I was heading home. That was Friday--haven't heard from him since, which is probably just as well.

Back to square one!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

DMV on MySpace

The California DMV now has a MySpace page, as well as a bunch of YouTube videos intended to help people be better drivers. I haven't checked them out, but the idea is very clever. Towards the end of the NY Times article about this development, I laughed out loud at this unexpected punchline:
As is perhaps less than surprising for a D.M.V. MySpace page, the department has fewer than 40 friends.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Declaring war on junk e-mail

On a daily basis, I get probably 15-20 junk email messages. They're not quite spam, because at some point or another I actually either signed up for it, or bought something that put me on the list. I get 1-2 "personal" messages a day, if that. It really is out of control. It's as bad as, if not worse than, junk postal mail. To wit, my inbox today:

B.A. Framer
UCSD Alumni Association
US Mint
Harris Teeter (x2)
New York Times (x2)
Eddie Bauer
News & Observer

Yesterday, many of the above, PLUS:
Star Tribune
Trip Advisor
Longhorn Steakhouse
Holiday Inn Express
US Airways

And that's not even counting all the emails I have automatically labeled "promotions" and set to bypass my Inbox: Bath & Body Works, NewEgg,, Talbots,, Borders, Body Shop, Comp USA. I don't unsubscribe outright, because often there are valuable coupons in these emails, but nor do I want to see them every few days, when I purchase from these vendors only a couple of times a year. Thank goodness for the Gmail filter option. I'm off to create more filters, so I can basically reserve my Inbox for REAL emails.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

No, really, what were they thinking?

Going through photos from my training trips...came across this one...didn't know why I took it at first, but when I zoomed in, it became clear. Or rather, unclear...

Seriously, WHO thought that sign would help anyone?

Taco Town

This is one of the funniest SNL commercials ever!

Friday, November 16, 2007


I work in a great office with awesome bosses. Just for fun, they rented those giant padded sumo costumes and let us all "fight" each other starting at 4 last Friday. It was nuts! They also provided pizza and beer, so a fun time was had by all. Here's a shot of one of the company's owners fighting our director of marketing:

I opted not to don the sweaty suit and instead had fun taking the photos. My manager went up against one of the people in our department and got whooped--after the winner was declared, though, he went ballistic and kept attacking him! It was hilarious! This is a photo of their bout:

Adorable puppy

I was waiting at the signal by my house, which is like 4 minutes long, and beside me was a pickup truck. I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye, so I looked over, and saw the cutest little puppy in the back! I rolled down my window and talked to him, and he got all excited. (I was kinda afraid he might try to jump out, but he seemed to be tied down pretty well.) I don't like the idea of driving with a dog in the back of a truck, but boy he was adorable.

Of course it made me want to get one. Whenever I see cats or dogs, I have a visceral reaction. My whole face lights up and I immediately want to pet and hold them. Recently, I was parking at a hotel in South Carolina, and I saw a cat run into the bushes. I tried to find it so I could give it some luv, but wasn't able to. I think especially when I see an animal in an unexpected place, the rush is even stronger. I wish I could have 10 dogs and 10 cats, but that's just my tendency to want too much of a good thing, because I know that in reality that would be so much work, not to mention chaotic.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Answers to questions

From David Pogue's email newsletter:

Why do the signal-strength bars on my cellphone change when I’m standing still?

The signal indicator isn’t a live depiction of your cell strength. The phone needs to send out a “ping” to the tower from time to time to figure out if it is still connected. You may be in a spot where you get full signal strength, then move to a dead spot, and the phone won’t know for a set interval (30 seconds or so, I believe) until it pings again and figures out the new strength. Thus, you stand there with 4 bars and then suddenly get 1 or 0. If it were a live update, the battery would drain a heck of a lot faster.
* * *
Often the signal is being reflected off buildings and or terrain and that will give you varying signal strength. This may also explain why sometimes you can’t make a call even though you’ve got enough bars as reflected signals are weak anyway.

Why is the numeric keypad on a computer (7-8-9 at the top) upside-down from the numeric keypad on phones (1-2-3 on top)?

When 10-key touch-tone telephones were invented it was decided that folks accustomed to 10-key calculators would type in the numbers faster than the then-developed equipment could handle, so the numbers were inverted.
* * *
The computer keypad is a legacy of the adding machine/calculator and is mostly used by bean counters, who are too old to learn new tricks. The phone keypad is a legacy from the rotary dial, with the 1 on top and 0 at bottom. The dial had the alphabet to contend with. No one wants to see that upside down.

Why aren’t elevator buttons double action? Press once to go to floor, press again to cancel. It would save all those “OOPS! — I hit the wrong button” moments.

I live in Korea — almost all the elevators are “one push on/second push off” style. Most in Japan, too. Much more sensible, and if that annoying kid who presses them all shows up, easy to fix. Though one time I had someone unpush my floor because they thought they had pushed it by mistake, and so I had a bit longer elevator ride. But over all, a definite plus.
* * *
Because there are people who think punching a lit elevator button makes it come faster. Really. Drop in to my office.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Annual Wake County Library Book Sale

This was my second year going to the book sale. I asked to leave work early so I could get there before the evening rush, and snag the best titles. Here's a look at the book buying madness:

And here's my take. Not bad for under $60.

I think my favorite find of the evening was Wicked. But I'm also excited to read the memoirs of Bill and Hillary, the David Sedaris book, I Know This Much Is True, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and The Secret Life of Bees.

Some of the books are stacked, because I didn't have enough room. The biggest stacks are the chick lit novels and the cookbooks. I got a couple church compilations. I think those will probably have the best recipes, because they're everyone's favorites. Flipping through the pages, they seem very simple to make.

You can visit the sale if you live in the Raleigh area. It's going on through Sunday, and the prices get even cheaper come the weekend. Details here.

Cutest little car

You've got to watch this video. The whole thing. It's so cool!

Animal-lover's dilemma

There's a trial going on right now in Galveston, TX. You may have heard about the man, James Stevenson, who shot and killed a cat because he claimed it was stalking endangered birds. He admits to killing the animal, and even to the act being premeditated, but he insists he was doing it to protect the birds. Apparently the case has drawn attention from bird lovers and cat lovers alike, and both sides are strident in the defense of their positions.

I myself am a cat person. In fact, my care for birds is so low that I even consent to eat the chicken and turkey variety. So of course I think this guy deserves to be punished. The key factor in the case, which will determine whether or not he is convicted, is whether or not the cat was feral, or belonged to someone. It lived under a bridge, so was not a traditional pet, but the bridge's toll taker did feed it and provide toys, so in my opinion, that makes the cat his pet.

However, I do see his point about the cat being a problem for the birds. But isn't that nature's way? It's one thing when a species is bordering on extinction due to human destruction of its habitat, but when the animal's own natural predators are to blame, I think that's called "survival of the fittest."

Here's the link to the article in the NY Times (free registration required), if you care to read more.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me!

I wish I could put little musical notes in the title of this post, because it is supposed to be sung! I'm 32 today. I celebrated with my parents on Saturday by going to Longhorn Steakhouse. I had the salmon, which is always well prepared, and the Chocolate Stampede for dessert.

From the menu:
Two peaks of chocolate cake packed with six types of chocolate including chocolate mousse, fudge icing and chocolate shavings! Served with vanilla bean ice cream, fudge sauce and whipped cream.

It was divine! The texture of the cake layer was a little gooey and brownie-like, and the 2 kinds of chocolate mousse were rich and dense. The whole combination was super yummy. If you order it, which I highly recommend for birthday extravagance, keep in mind there is enough for 4 people!

Sunday, my indulgence was Kraft macaroni and cheese for dinner. Extreme comfort food, I'm telling you. Today, my last day of diet debauchery, I was going to have KFC's chicken and mashed potato bowl for lunch, but a coworker offered to take me out so we're going to a little Mediterranean place across from Meredith College. Maybe I'll save the KFC for dinner! Then tomorrow, it's back to reality. I can't wait to get my bloodwork results back from my doctor. I was SUCH a good girl for five whole weeks--I hope my triglycerides went down dramatically, or I'll be very discouraged.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mark Twain House

I was looking through all the pics on my memory card, and realized I never got around to posting about my visit to the Mark Twain house. It was a nice little tour, if on the pricey side. Our guide was one of the originals who started when the house first opened to the public. He was very knowledgeable, if not terribly animated. Pictures of the inside of the house are not allowed, but it was like you'd expect any Gilded Age house to be: very over the top. What was interesting to me was that Twain had it built very early in his career, when he was only in his 30's. I asked the guide how he could afford such luxury at that point, since the typical writer we all envision is struggling to make ends meet. But he apparently married well, and even his first book was very successful and made him quite a bit of money.

One anecdote from the tour that I thought was funny was about the bed that Twain bought while in Venice, Italy, and had shipped back to Connecticut. He slept with his head at the footboard, so he could face the headboard. His philosophy was that he spent so much money on this bed, that he wanted to be able to enjoy its beauty rather than have his back to it.

Here are a couple of photos:

Main House

Main House, angle 2

Carriage House

During the tour, one of my fellow onlookers seemed really familiar to me, but I couldn't quite place her. Something told me she had something to do with teaching, though. After the tour, I asked her if she was from California. Yes. Southern? Yes. Involved in teaching? Yes. In Santa Clarita? Yes. Turns out, she was one of the frequent substitutes at the junior high I worked at. Man, it's a small world!!!

Thursday, November 08, 2007


David Pogue, the NY Times tech columnist, gathered these questions from readers. Number 3 is a fabulous idea!
  1. Why can't I order TV channels a la carte, so that I just pay for the ones I want?
  2. Why do the signal-strength bars on my cellphone change when I'm standing still?
  3. When we are put on hold, we offered numerous options--"press 1 for sales," etc. Why not an option to press for "Mute this annoying music," or maybe to select different types of music?
  4. Why is there a Maximum Weight notice in an elevator, and what are we supposed to do about it? How are we supposed to know how much we collectively weigh?
  5. Why is the numeric keypad on a computer (7-8-9 at the top) upside-down from the numeric keypad on phones (1-2-3 on top)?
  6. Why aren't elevator buttons double action? Press once to go to floor, press again to cancel. It would save all those "OOPS!--I hit the wrong button" moments.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Unexpected civility

As always, I never expect anyone but friends and family to read my blog, let alone comment, so it was nice to see that others stopped by and were compelled to say a few words. I was very impressed with the mature and thoughtful comments left by the two guys. They both make very valid points. Just because a guy's looking online doesn't mean he stops being a guy. And, I shouldn't let the closings get to me because it really IS their loss. I guess signing up for the service was kind of like buying a lottery ticket--it's easy to get caught up in the daydream of what you'll do with all the money when you win, but in reality, it's a lot harder than it seems to strike the jackpot. I keep getting 6 more matches a day (what's up with that?) and a couple more have indicated they want to start communication, so it's not like a barren desert or something. There are little flickers of possibility...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Rocky start to eHarmony

I joined eHarmony last week. I'd been meaning to for quite some time, but kept putting it off because I didn't think I was ready for a relationship. Now, I guess, I am. Or at least I thought I was. I was feeling pretty good about myself--job's going well, my house is settled, I'm in a good exercise routine, I wasn't pining away for old times. So, you know, time to start thinking about finding someone to spend time with.

Years ago, I had a profile on another service, Spring Street, which is accessible from lots of different websites. I joined through, but they're also seen on The Onion, Nerve, etc. So I'm not exactly new to the whole online dating thing. But it's gotten to the point where finding someone online is no different than finding someone in a bar. It's all about looks. So I thought that maybe eHarmony would be a better route, since instead of just posting a profile and waiting for people to email, they actually match you up with people, and it's supposed to be a "serious" mate-finding site.

Well, I took the much-hyped personality profile, and much to my surprise, they found me 6 matches right away. I was stoked, because I had been very specific about age, religion, and geographic location. So I checked these guys out. They looked decent, right around my age, in good professional jobs, and they sounded pretty well grounded. Yippee! So I started the "guided communication" process. This entails selecting five multiple choice questions from a list of about 50, and sending them. I asked things like, "What is your philosophy on travel?" Then you wait for their responses. And wait.

As if 6 matches weren't enough, I got 6 more the next day. It was raining men! But then I started getting the dreaded "CLOSED." This is where you can basically indicate you're not interested in someone by ending communication. Since all the guys were local and around my age, with similar interests, etc., I didn't expect to get closed before we even started communicating! But sure enough, my first one came before I'd even had a chance to read his profile, and his reason: Other. Oh, that's helpful. And ever since then, for every 6 matches I get (I don't know why they come in batches of 6) at least 2 close me out right away. Sometimes they say they're in another relationship--ok, then why is your profile still accepting matches? One even said "There's too much going on in my life right now." Again, why doesn't he turn off his profile? Which leads me to believe that these "reasons" are just a way to let someone down easy. It's hard not to be a little discouraged. I posted several pictures of myself, and of course I think they're the best ones, and to think that someone would just be like, "Nah," well that kind of hurts. I mean, I can't expect everyone to find me attractive and find my profile interesting, but any form of rejection is a tiny blow to the ego. And naturally I start to assume that these guys are rejecting me simply because I'm not skinny. And if you read their profiles with that in mind, it is very disheartening. Almost all of them make some reference to how important being physically fit is to them. Which is just code for "no fatties." Fine, whatever, I don't want to be with someone who focuses so much on weight anyway. But if you go out to any public place, like the grocery store, Walmart, wherever, you see overweight women with husbands and kids, and I have to wonder: "If they found a guy, WHY CAN'T I????!" It is incredibly frustrating.

If signing up hadn't been so expensive (I joined for 3 months) I would be tempted to just forget about it. But I think I'll just let the matches keep on coming, and we'll see if anyone is interested. I am in communication with two guys right now, so at least there's that. We'll have to just wait and see.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Halloween Costume

The beauty of my costume is that out in public, no one knows I'm dressed up, but at the office, it was hysterical. Everyone said it looked really convincing. In fact, I was answering the door earlier for trick-or-treaters, and one mom said to me, "You look like you're about to pop." When I told her it was a costume, she was shocked. That was fun!

All day, I couldn't help but rub my belly. Is that some sort of maternal instinct kicking in or something? Or is it the Everest effect--"because it's there"?

I won't even begin to delve into the other feelings this costume forces me to confront--the tiny voice inside that says, "You dressed up in this costume five years ago, and it's still only a costume." Besides, who wants to be pregnant anyway? Ever tried using a laptop (on your actual lap) with a belly that big??

Sunday, October 28, 2007

NC Mountains - Fall Foliage

Last weekend my parents and I went to visit my brother and my niece in Laurel Springs, NC. That's where my brother recently moved. It's funny, because his new house is across the street from where we all stopped for ice cream on our first trip to NC back in June of 2005. It's weird how things like that work. For instance, on that same trip, my mom and I ate lunch at a little Italian restaurant that turned out to be in the same shopping center where I did all my grocery shopping when I lived in Apex. And my current dentist is in the same shopping center where my parents got a PO box at a UPS store when we were still living in CA, so they could forward their mail while searching for a house.

Anyway, Cassidy is cute as ever, even if she refused to give me "sugars" the whole time we were there. She does a thing with Matthew where he'll say, "I love YOU more," and she'll say, "No, I love YOU more!" and they'll go back and forth like that. So adorable. She also does high fives with him. And she's totally into Finding Nemo. The girl has good taste.

We could not have asked for a more beautiful day to enjoy the scenery. Here are some pix:

iPod Meme

Instructions: Go to your music player of choice and put it on shuffle. Say the following questions aloud, and press play. Use the song title as the answer to the question. -- from Heather

I will admit that the answers sometimes were really dumb, so I did it twice and below are the best of the combined results.

How does the world see you?
First: The Nutcracker
Second: The Perfect Nanny (kids from Mary Poppins)

Will I have a happy life?
A Little Respect (Erasure)

What do my friends really think of me?
Belong (REM)

What do people secretly think of me?
First: Tangled Up in Blue (Natalie Merchant cover of Bob Dylan)
Second: Funny Honey (Renee Zellweger in Chicago)

How can I be happy?
Baby Girl (Sugarland)
Guess that means I should make my dreams come true so I can stay in the Ritz

What should I do with my life?
First: Mr. Jones (Counting Crows)
Second: Wonderwall (Oasis)
Great songs, but what are they even about?

Will I ever have children?
There Will Come A Day (Faith Hill)
Wow, all righty then!

What is some good advice for me?
Losing My Religion (REM)
Literally, don't have any to lose; idiomatically, to lose one's patience--not generally good advice

How will I be remembered?
Building a Mystery (Sarah McLachlan)
They say Scorpios are mysterious...

What is my signature dancing song?
The Smurfs Theme
At least it wasn't Family Ties

What do I think my current theme song is?
Do You Really Want to Hurt Me (Boy George)
Maybe two years ago, but certainly not now

What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
Higher Ground (UB40)
I LOVE this song!! Awesome message.

What song will play at my funeral?
First: Beauty and the Beast (Celine Dion)
Second: Latin Chant (Evita)

What type of men/women do you like?
Waiting for That Day (George Michael)

What is my day going to be like?
Candle in the Wind (live) (Elton John)
That's depressing.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Time for a change

I haven't had a haircut since, like, May of 2006. Not even a trim, which I know is bad. I haven't had hair this long in quite some time. When I was little, I had long hair and wanted nothing more than to chop it off, and I finally convinced my mom to let me some time around the 5th grade, I think it was. But I remember in my 7th grade school picture, I was sporting the long hair again. It was fine (texture-wise), but thick, perfectly straight, smooth, and healthy.

Then, in 8th grade, I made a hair styling choice that changed everything. I got a perm. (Insert Psycho screeches here.) It was not attractive, to say the least, and when it finally grew out, my hair was never really the same. It gets frizzy very easily, and if I don't blow dry it, it has some lame looking waviness. Not pretty waves, but like three weird, oddly placed and shaped waves. And ever since then, growing out my hair has not really been an option, because it wasn't thick enough for it to look halfway decent. It would get scraggly looking.

Recently I found these multivitamins that say they're good for nails, hair, and skin, because they have tons of biotin. I really think my hair did grow faster, and was at least a little thicker. It's gotten to the point where if I'm sitting in a chair, I lean against my hair, so I'm always pulling it forward over my shoulder. And with summer's heat, I always had it in a clip to keep it off my neck.

Well, I think I'm ready for a haircut. My hair isn't long enough for Locks of Love, and it would probably just get sold (I read about how if the hair isn't exactly what they need, they sell it to Chinese wig makers for like $4 per ponytail). And I don't want to just get a couple inches trimmed off the bottom. I want to do something a little different. So I found this website, Makeover Solutions, that lets you upload a photo and try out different hairstyles for free. (In the Virtual Makeover section, click "try it free." Requires registration.) I tried lots of styles, and found these three to be my favorite options. Granted, they're not drastic (the pixie styles don't exactly suit my face shape) but they're a little more stylish than what I have now. Which one do you like best? I'm digging A, but I don't know how I'd achieve the curl thing easily. (I'm not a hot rollers kind of gal.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Waterbury, CT

When you're little, the concept of your parents being born anywhere other than where they live at that exact moment seems so foreign. Then, as you get older, school projects prompt you to ask more questions about your roots. The one thing I always remembered about my mom was that she was born in Waterbury, Connecticut. Might as well be a million miles away as far as a kid whose whole life was spent in the West was concerned.

But it figured that sooner or later, in my travels with my job, I would come near Waterbury, and today was that day. It was right on my way, so I called my mom to let her know. She remembered her old street address, so I plugged it into the Garmin to check it out. She speculated, "It could be a ghetto now." I offered, "Maybe they bulldozed it and it's a Best Buy." Neither of us was right. It's the same duplex she remembered as a kid, in very good condition considering its age, complete with a pretty spiffy view from the side yard (my camera doesn't adjust well to shade, but you get the idea):

Here are some nearby houses, to give you an idea of what the neighborhood is like now:

My mom also remembered that her grandmother had "pancake pictures" taken in front of a family gravestone in a Waterbury cemetery. (I can't find anything online as to what pancake pictures are, but she says it's like a formal photo session.) But without an address, that would be more difficult to locate. As I whizzed by on the highway, though, I saw this from the road:

Maybe it's one of those...


It's October in the Northeast (well, it's October everywhere, but Fall up here has certain expectations), so the leaves are turning, but as you can see, there's still a lot of green.

It was a gorgeous day today, perfect for scenic driving. Making my way to breakfast at a diner in Mt. Kisco, NY, I saw this quaint sight:

I'm hoping tomorrow I'll get to go to the Mark Twain House and maybe also the Harriet Beecher Stowe house. Hartford has lots of historical sites, that's for sure!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Marshall, Michigan

This is for Nicole, and she'll know why:

And this is for Mom and Dad:

Alas, I could go into neither, because they weren't open yet and I had to leave for my training.

It was a gorgeous day--low to mid 70's, crystal clear sky. SUCH a welcome break from the heat. I'm glad I left when I did, though--it was supposed to drop to the 50's and start raining the next day!

The B&B was tres cute (National House Inn). Here are some pix:

My hand's reflection on the surface of the plane at 22,000 feet:

Coming in for a landing at Baltimore International Airport: